Education provides escape from street scavenging

In Cambodia, World Vision’s Social Mobilization Against Child Labor Project helps children like Socheata transition from a life of scavenging on the street to daily grade school attendance.

Story and photo by Vichheka Sok.
Published February 23, 2012 at 12:00am PST

“I was so hungry. There was no food to eat, aside from water,” remembers Socheata, now age 9.

Life as scavengers

Because of her family’s poverty and her mother’s poor health, Socheata and her brother dropped out of school to work as scavengers.

“My older brother and I walked barefoot on the dangerous streets collecting rubbish,” she remembers.

“I used to think cans, plastic bottles, and metals are my treasures because I can sell these for money and buy white rice to cook to fill my hunger.”

Sometimes she and her brother would walk all day long and still not have the 50 cents they needed to buy rice.

Starving stomachs and minds

Not only were the children unable to fill their stomachs; their minds were also being starved, and their dreams were fading away.

“I [felt] sad when seeing other children dress up and go to school,” Socheata says. “My older brother and I couldn’t go to school because our family needs food to eat.”

Preparing children to return to school

World Vision’s Social Mobilization Against Child Labor Project in Cambodia reaches out to children like Socheata every day.

When Sambo Chob, the project coordinator, first visited Socheata’s family, he explained how the services, such as non-formal education, would benefit Socheata and her brother and prepare them to return to formal school. Socheata’s mother agreed to register her children with the project.

Today, Socheata is very happy. “I learned how to read, write, and calculate numbers,” she says. “I like playing with other children…and reading folktale books at the library.”

She also likes how she is treated. “World Vision staff love me and use good words toward me. They encourage me to study hard,” she says, sharing how she now dreams of a different future.

School changes lives

The two children have now returned to public school. Socheata is in second grade. Her brother is in fourth grade.

“I hope I can be a tailor in the future, so there will be white rice in the jar for cooking and my family members will not sleep without any food,” she says.

How you can help

Pray for children who are trapped in a life of scavenging, denied the chance to go to school. Pray that organizations like World Vision would be able to help them escape life on the streets and gain access to education.

Make a one-time gift to help provide education for one child. Your gift can help pay school fees or provide essentials like uniforms, textbooks, backpacks, and school supplies — helping ensure that one child in poverty can receive what he or she needs to get an education.